It’s a Mystery!

Can you believe it?  I’ve been posting on this site for about six months already, keeping fingers crossed that others would stumble upon my blog and find it entertaining enough to keep coming back.  I want readers to tell their friends about me, and build my “author’s platform.”  Challenges with this include:

  • I don’t visit or recommend other author sites enough (this blog-sharing is a two-way street after all)
  • I haven’t bothered to ask you, my dear reading friend, what I’m doing right or wrong for your needs
  • I haven’t provided so much as ONE short mystery, just for fun!
  • We haven’t shared the names of good mystery authors.

Well this changes now.  Ta-Dah!  New Year’s Resolution be dog-goned.  People are allowed to create new visions and new attitudes whenever they feel like it.

So, here are a few new things I’m adding to my blog, and I hope you’ll like them:

  1. A mystery review each month — I will try to recommend new (and established) cozy mystery writers I enjoy, and hope you’ll add to my area of interest by recommending some of your own.
  2. There’s a “poll” feature to WordPress, the software I use for my website.  I’m going to explore how it works and actively seek your feedback.  No more passive Daisy for me-heh, heh, heh.
  3. I have several friends who are either published, self-published or aspiring to publish novels.  I hope to interview them and post more from other authors here.  Mostly, I’ll try to stick with mystery writers, but reading all kinds of work is great stuff, don’t you think?  And several of my friends write outside the mystery genre, but you may want to get to know them, so I’ll invite them to share their personal writing stories too.
  4. A short “Daisy Mystery”once a quarter.  Look for the first one in January.  Don’t expect a murder each time.  That’s reserved for the Daisy novels. But Daisy has adventures of the every-day kind too. She might stumble into situations like, “Where did Thunder go?” or “Why is Kitty dressed in black?” or “Who stole Ginny’s cell-phone?”  I hope you like them.
Reading Mysteries with weapons close by

A few of my “friends” in the mystery world.

To start things off in a new–and hopefully better–direction, today I’d like to share the names of three favorite cozy mystery authors.  A cozy mystery definitely has a murder in it, but most of the gruesomeness happens “off-stage,” left to the reader’s imagination.  The main character is usually an amateur-sleuth, someone who has a life beyond police work.  If you like a warm, fuzzy, murder, then be sure to check these out:

  • M.C. Beaton – The Agatha Raisin series.  This set of stories centers around a retired public relations specialist who is often crankly and delightfully “rough around the edges.”  Agatha lives in a cozy English town called Carsley, has a thing for the handsome next door neighbor and keeps life in an uproar by being delightfully inept at many social opportunities.
  • Carrie Bebris – The Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries.  Okay. I admit it.  I love Jane Austin, and have read, and re-read and watched the movies of her romances.  What a delight to find a twist on Ms. Austin’s stories in the well-crafted mysteries by Carrie Bebris. Practically swallowed these books in one-sitting each.  If you’re an Austin fan with an appetite for mystery, don’t miss these–they’re great fun.
  • Susan Albert Wittig – The Garden Mysteries.  When I grew tired of Regency Romances about ten to fifteen years ago, I sought out a new form of reading, and stumbled upon the cozy mystery. Susan Albert-Wittig provided a wonderful introduction into this new genre because she showed me a world of herbs (and I had just started a herb garden) and set her stories in Texas, where I was living at the time.  I love the herb trivia sprinkled through-out the mysteries and China Bayles’ Thyme and Seasons herb shop.  Hope you like it too.

I could go on and on for several posts about the different cozy mystery writers I enjoy, but I’m running out of space for today.  Tell you what.  I’ll keep slipping in “It’s a Mystery” every now and then, with more mystery writers I like.  I hope you’ll suggest a few more–I can always use a good read.

Have a great day, my reading friend.  I hope you find just the right words to suit it.

Developing Gratitude for Thanksgiving

Family Photo by Winnie Kesteloot

A few reasons to be grateful on Thanksgiving – Family, Friends, and Good Times.

I hate to admit this, but every time someone says “you should be grateful…” I feel like arguing the point.  I guess it’s something about my contrary nature when feeling forced into an attitude that may not come naturally.

It’s kind of like ol’ Charlie Cunnington.  Mr. Cunnington used to run a resort in Canada.  He had blue eyes the color of ice, a round, Santa Claus tummy, and a stare that used to scare us kids, even at the same time we liked him a lot.  Every time I politely asked him “How are you?” his answer was, “Worse!”  It would make me giggle to think someone was allowed to say something other than “Just fine, thank you, and how are you?”  I liked Mr. Cunnington and think of him from time to time, especially when someone says “we should be grateful…”

BUT a day to celebrate exactly those people and things I’m grateful for?  Celebrate the gift of friendship? That’s different!  Thanksgiving is a wonderful concept, and a day I look forward to a lot.

Why?

Glad you asked.  Here are my top 10 reasons for celebrating Thanksgiving with gusto:

  1. The good food—like mashed potatoes-yummy, yummy, forget the scale honey
  2. Every third Thursday in November off of work—And mostly I’ve had the Friday after off as well.  This is a special, two-for-the-price-of-one holiday.  Very cool.
  3. The good food—like cranberry sauce that’s made from whole cranberries – so easy to make, so fun with that sweet-tart taste, I can feel my mouth-watering even now.
  4. Making turkey pictures with kids—you know the kind where you trace their outstretched hands on a piece of paper and drop in eyes, a beak and feathers out of the basic shape? Takes me back to my elementary years.  How fun is that?
  5. The good food—like green bean casserole. We’ll pretend for a day that this is a healthy dish.
  6. Football–I’m not sure when this “tradition” hit our house, but I don’t think Thanksgiving would be the same without the crowds cheering throughout.  Will I remember the game, the score, the great plays? Not likely. But I love listening to the guys in our group laugh and shout “yeah!” all over the place.
  7. The good food—yes, I do love turkey! And turkey soup, turkey pot pies and turkey with mayo sandwiches.  Bring ‘em on!
  8. Friends and Loved Ones far away—They will be people I’ll send holiday greetings to soon, but on Thanksgiving Day, I like to sit for a quiet moment and think of the smiles shared because of the people in my life—family, friends, teachers, ministers, dog walkers, dancers, artists, writers, community members whose names I don’t know but who make my life better for the services and happy energy they provide.  How do you thank someone for being themselves? Thanksgiving day, and a moment with their smiles in my heart.
  9. Friends and Loved Ones close by—Sharing a day with people in the spirit of friendship is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give yourself.  My special guy and I have been so lucky over the years to be able to share this day with family, neighbors, business associates and friends of all kinds.  We’ve experienced all sorts of wonderful traditions and experiences, from prayers to jokes, from festive traditional foods to unusual dishes from around the world.  One thing every celebration has had in common is the generous spirit of those around us.  I am deeply humbled by the experience and, yes, very grateful.
  10. I am grateful for you, dear reader.  Without someone to read or listen, what good is a storyteller’s tale?  I wish you well today and always.

5 Tips For Smashing Your Writer’s Block

I have to admit, I get stuck frequently, where writing is concerned.  Currently I’m struggling with a chapter in Sliced Vegetarian where Daisy and Gabe have a fight at a local restaurant.  This kind of scene is very uncomfortable for me, yet I know it’s important to my story.  Thing is, when you write a scene like this, you need to “caricature” the events–go over the top with what happens, so that the scene is memorable for the reader.  This is fiction after all–adventure out of everyday life.  Still, a reluctance to go with yelling in public, making waiters and patrons uncomfortable, perhaps throwing food give me the creeps and may be keeping me from attacking the scene with gusto.

This reluctance and subsequent lack of words leaves me with that horrid, no-good, yucky feeling of writer’s block.

Yes, there are those out there who claim they don’t have time for such a nonsensical thing as writer’s block (and I hate them), but I also did a little research on the subject and feel that the monster under the bed is real to a certain extent.  Famous  authors like Stephen King and Earnest Hemingway have admitted to it, as well as many of my friends in my writing group.

So, how do you deal with writer’s block, work through it, or smash that block to smithereens?  Here are five of the best tips my research came up with:

Watercolor of a pencil with hope

Write away–there are no wrong words.

  1. It’s your responsibility to write–would you ever go to a dentist’s office or other appointment and put up with having the receptionist say “I’m sorry. The doctor has dental block today and won’t be able to help you. Come back another time.” No excuses–butt to chair, fingers to keyboard, and write!
  2. Write well or write bad, but keep writing!–I think sometimes its easy to get caught up in trying to write your entire article, chapter, or even book in your head before putting the first words to paper.  What I learned in my artwork of my younger years is that warm-up sketches help not only getting your pencil moving, but they clutter the page and take away it’s pristine state that is so intimidating.  You’re not writing to win the Pulitzer, you’re writing simply to tell a story, give a piece of information, or persuade one reader at a time.  No click on the keyboard is sacred, but the action of clicking lots is important. Start writing anything, then polish words and envision great success later.  Give yourself permission to write badly, but never give yourself permission not to write.
  3. Be consistent with your writing time–If you only have stops and starts to work with, you will fall out of the habit of  writing and begin a downward spiral where writing is lost to other priorities in your life.  Even if you only have a few minutes each day, when you are consistent with those minutes it’s amazing what you can produce.  When you jump around with your writing time, your subconscious has no chance to work with you.  I firmly believe we all have body clocks that allow the more primitive portions of our brains to help us survive by knowing what to expect.  If you train your brain that from 5:30 to 5:45 each evening you will write–guess what? You WILL write! Amazing.
  4. Write who you are–This may sound silly, but its simply an extension of the thought that success is based as much on who you know as what you know.  And what better person to know than yourself?  I’m in the midst of reading a good book, The Freelance Writer’s Bible by David Trottier, and the first section is full of self-discovery exercises.  Why are these important?  Because when you write to your true self, your writing will be stronger and easier to complete.
  5. Be organized with your writing–One of my favorite books in the past year has been David Fryxell’s Write Faster, Write Better.  He too has a chapter on getting rid of writer’s block, and it centers around being organized to write.  He used to go to interviews well in advance of his writing deadlines in order to leave time for his subconscious to organize his thoughts before beginning his articles.  The difference between what Mr. Fryxell was doing, I think, and what those who get stuck are doing, is that he would jam his head full of content not full of problems about writing. This prepared-to-write attitude helped him produce multiple columns, articles and books for several years.

Okay, now its your turn.  What will you write today? When will you write? No pile of dirty dishes or lawn care chores are more important than the chance to express yourself in your own unique way.  Go for it, and good luck!